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Buffalo Bills 53-man roster projection: Pre-preseason 2021

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

It’s been a while since we’ve done a roster projection for the Buffalo Bills and now with the first couple weeks of training camp in the books, we are seeing it take shape. Since that could change when the lights turn on and the preseason starts, let’s take one last look before they start hitting players in other jerseys.

We listed players in alphabetical order in the roster list but there is a projected depth chart at the bottom. Free-agent signings are marked with an asterisk while NFL Draft picks are marked with a plus sign and UDFAs are marked with a double plus sign.

Quarterback (2)

Josh Allen
Mitch Trubisky*

Cut: Jake Fromm, Davis Webb
Change from previous: Fromm is cut

The Bills have Trubisky as the primary backup to Allen with Fromm and potentially Webb both on the practice squad. I made the change of cutting Fromm because I presume Allen is fully vaccinated now. He wasn’t wearing a mask when discussing his contract extension. Because of the vaccination, the high-risk close-contact problem like the Minnesota Vikings saw isn’t as much of a concern.

Running Back (5)

Matt Breida*
Reggie Gilliam
Taiwan Jones
Zack Moss
Devin Singletary

Cuts: Christian Wade, Antonio Williams
Change from previous: none

Moss and Singletary may have to work hard to keep Breida off the field this year, but he’s like to be the game-day inactive. Williams is having a strong camp, but I don’t see him passing the top three. Jones is a special teams roster spot.

Wide Receiver (6)

Cole Beasley
Gabriel Davis
Stefon Diggs
Jake Kumerow
Isaiah McKenzie
Emmanuel Sanders*

Cut: Isaiah Hodgins, Tanner Gentry, Brandon Powell*, Marquez Stevenson+, Duke Williams, Lance Lenoir++
Changes from previous: Jake Kumerow on, Marquez Stevenson off

Hodgins is a player I didn’t want to cut, but he’s the 55th man right now. Strong preseason tape might force the Bills to keep him instead of trying to sneak him through waivers. Kumerow has separated himself from the other receivers at this point. McKenzie would make the roster on his offense alone, but he is also the KR/PR. In that realm, Stevenson has been a disappointment fielding kicks this summer and becomes just the third pick of general manager Brandon Beane to not make the 53-man roster.

Tight end (3)

Jacob Hollister*
Dawson Knox
Tommy Sweeney

Cut: Nate Becker, Quintin Morris*
Change from previous: none

Sweeney is back and replacing Lee Smith while Hollister takes Tyler Kroft’s snaps. Knox knows it’s put up or shut up time.

Offensive tackle (4)

Spencer Brown+
Tommy Doyle+
Dion Dawkins
Daryl Williams

Cut: Bobby Hart*, Caleb Benenoch*, Syrus Tuitele*
Change from previous: none

Brown has been working at left tackle with Dion Dawkins sidelined. I side with the rookie Doyle over the veteran Hart because Brandon Beane has traditionally held onto his draft picks. On a one-year deal, it’s possible the Bills can swing a trade involving Hart instead of releasing him similar to their move with Marshall Newhouse a few years ago.

Interior OL (5)

Ryan Bates
Ike Boettger
Jon Feliciano
Cody Ford
Mitch Morse

Cut: Forrest Lamp*, Jordan Devey, Jamil Douglas*, Jack Anderson+, Marquel Harrell*, Steven Gonzalez*
Changes from previous: none

Another draft pick released but I don’t see why they would keep ten offensive linemen and Anderson hasn’t been in the top five. Morse has been unquestioned while Boettger, Ford, and Feliciano have been rotating. Bates has been solid in camp, as well. Lamp can’t make the roster from the training room.

Defensive Line (10)

Mario Addison
Carlos Basham+
Vernon Butler
A.J. Epenesa
Jerry Hughes
Darryl Johnson Jr.
Star Lotulelei
Efe Obada*
Ed Oliver
Greg Rousseau+

Cut: Bryan Cox Jr. (IR), Mike Love, Brandin Bryant, Justin Zimmer, Harrison Phillips, Treyvon Hester*, Eli Ankou*
Change from previous: Obada and Johnson make the team

Last time, Phillips was my last man off my roster. This time, it was Justin Zimmer. The Bills have some hard choices to make on the defensive line, but a lot of defensive ends who can kick inside to 3-tech. I kept Darryl Johnson Jr. over Zimmer for his special teams contribution. Efe Obada has been taking first-team reps at defensive end, so he moves up onto the roster, too. Butler was given a $1 million roster bonus this offseason and $1.5 million of his salary is already guaranteed for the season. They would have to really like Phillips or Zimmer to pay Butler $2.5 million to go away.

Linebacker (6)

Tyrel Dodson
Tremaine Edmunds
A.J. Klein
Tyler Matakevich
Matt Milano
Andre Smith

Cut: Marquel Lee*, Tyrell Adams*, Joe Giles-Harris, Mike Bell
Change from previous: Smith in, Adams out

Matakevich is another positional player in name only, as he’s a special teams selection. The Bills only kept six linebackers a year ago, so several NFL-caliber players are going to be off the list. I want to find a place for Adams, but Smith’s special teams usage gives him the roster nod here. Lee’s COVID-19 diagnosis came at the wrong time for a roster push.

Cornerback (5)

Dane Jackson
Taron Johnson
Siran Neal
Levi Wallace
Tre’Davious White

Cut: Cam Lewis, Rachad Wildgoose Jr.+, Nick McCloud++, Olaijah Griffin++
Change from previous: Wildgoose out

My previous roster projection had Wildgoose as my 53rd man, but his name has been absent at training camp so he’s gone. Buffalo will keep both Lewis and Wildgoose on the practice squad and another draft pick bites the dust. Griffin has been turning heads, too, and could end up on the practice squad.

Safety (4)

Damar Hamlin+
Micah Hyde
Jaquan Johnson
Jordan Poyer

Cut: Josh Thomas, Tariq Thompson++
Change from previous: none

Dean Marlowe is out and Jaquan Johnson takes over as the primary backup safety. Hamlin moves into the developmental role over former UDFA Thomas.

Specialists (3)

K Tyler Bass
LS Reid Ferguson
P Matt Haack*

There isn’t anyone on the roster to currently challenge any of these guys. Haack has a bunch of guaranteed money and isn’t going anywhere. Write it in ink.

Here is the depth chart provided by the team prior to the opener:

2021 Buffalo Bills Offseason Depth Chart

Position Starter Backup Reserve
Position Starter Backup Reserve
QB Josh Allen Mitchell Trubisky*
RB1 Zack Moss Matt Breida* Taiwan Jones
RB2 Devin Singletary
FB Reggie Gilliam
WR1 Stefon Diggs Jake Kumerow Marquez Stevenson+
WR2 Emmanuel Sanders* Gabriel Davis
SWR Cole Beasley Isaiah McKenzie
TE Dawson Knox Tommy Sweeney
LT Dion Dawkins Spencer Brown+
LG Jon Feliciano
C Mitch Morse Ryan Bates
RG Cody Ford Ike Boettger
RT Daryl Williams Tommy Doyle+
LE Mario Addison Greg Rousseau+ Efe Obada*
NT Star Lotulelei Vernon Butler Harrison Phillips
DT Ed Oliver Justin Zimmer
RE Jerry Hughes A.J. Epenesa Carlos Basham+
MLB Tremaine Edmunds A.J. Klein Tyler Matakevich
WLB Matt Milano Tyrel Dodson Andre Smith
CB Tre'Davious White
FS Jordan Poyer Damar Hamlin+
SS Micah Hyde Jaquan Johnson
NB Taron Johnson Siran Neal
CB Levi Wallace Dane Jackson
K Tyler Bass
P Matt Haack*
KR/PR Isaiah McKenzie Marquez Stevenson+